Voters In Coalgate, Okla., Supported McCain

In Coalgate, Okla., three-quarters of the residents voted for Sen. John McCain in the last presidential election. But many residents on Tuesday said maybe Martin Luther King's dream has come true.

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Here at the U.S. Capitol we're witnessing one of those moments you'd never expect as part of a presidential inauguration, but it makes perfect sense there are men windexing the bullet-proof glass that will be in front of President-elect Barack Obama when he becomes president of the United States. That's one bit of the scenery here, we have reporters across the country and across the world today including NPR's Howard Berkes. Howard, where are you?

HOWARD BERKES: I'm at the Ester's Country Grill, a restaurant in Coalgate, Oklahoma.

INSKEEP: And why go there, Howard? What's happening?

BERKES: This county in Oklahoma is 84 percent Democratic, but voted 76 percent for John McCain. It's also between the election in 2004 and this election the Republican vote increased 20 percent. So this is a place where there wasn't a lot of the poor for Barack Obama, and I came here to see how people are marking the day, what they're thinking - what they're thinking about the transition that's taking place in the White House.

INSKEEP: Well, that's particularly interesting because of these polls that you say that show the president-elect with an approval rating for what it's worth of something like 80 percent, far greater than the percentage who actually voted for him. But what are the kinds of things you are hearing in this county that voted for - very strongly for John McCain?

BERKES: Well, there's, you know, people say they voted for John McCain because of issues like gun control, affirmative action, abortion, the very strong conservative street here. They vote Democratic in local elections and then state elections, but when it comes to the national party it's just too liberal and they perceive Barack Obama as being too liberal. But I...


BERKES: I did speak with some people this morning who said - I asked them if they're going to mark the day today in a special way. The TV here, for example, is not tuned in to anything. People are going about their business, he said I'm planning on working. But then he paused and he said, you know, this is a historical deal, there's no question about it. Many said Martin Luther King's dream has come true, may be he's the man, meaning, Barack Obama, we'll find out. And then before he left he said, I hope he is.

INSKEEP: Do you sense that people in that conservative area feel included in this national event?

BERKES: Well, I think people do recognize the fact that it is a historic moment. Maybe they didn't support Barack Obama, there's concern about the economy here like there is everywhere else, things have slowed down here a bit. So there's - you know, there's still some hope here with this change even if they didn't vote for Barack Obama, even if they didn't - don't fit their views on some political issues.

INSKEEP: OK. All right. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Howard Berkes reporting on this inauguration morning from a coffee shop in Oklahoma.

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